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Broadband Rydberg Atom-Based Electric-Field Probe for SI-Traceable, Self-Calibrated Measurements



Christopher L. Holloway, Joshua A. Gordon, Steven R. Jefferts, Thomas P. Heavner


We discuss a fundamental new approach for the measurement of electric (E) fields that will lead to the development of a broadband, SI-traceable, compact, self-calibrating E-field probe (sensor). This approach is based on the interaction of radio frequency (RF) fields with alkali atoms excited to high Rydberg states. The RF field causes an energy splitting of the Rydberg states via the Autler-Townes effect, and we detect the splitting via electromagnetically induced transparency (EIT). In effect, alkali atoms placed in a vapor cell act like a RF-to-optical transducer: converting an RF E-field strength measurement to a frequency measurement. We demonstrate the broadband nature of this approach by showing that one small vapor cell can be used to measure E-field strengths over a wide range of frequencies: 1~GHz to 500~GHz. The technique is validated by comparing experimental data to both numerical simulations and far-field calculations for various RF frequencies. We also discuss various applications, including: a direct traceable measurement, the abilities to measure both weak and strong field strengths, compact form factors of the probe, and sub-wavelength imaging and field mapping.
IEEE Transactions on Antennas and Propagation


atom based metrology, Autler-Townes Splitting, broadband sensor and probe, electrical field measurements and sensor, EIT, sub-wavelength imaging, Rydberg atoms


Holloway, C. , Gordon, J. , Jefferts, S. and Heavner, T. (2014), Broadband Rydberg Atom-Based Electric-Field Probe for SI-Traceable, Self-Calibrated Measurements, IEEE Transactions on Antennas and Propagation, [online], (Accessed April 17, 2024)
Created September 25, 2014, Updated January 27, 2020